Encouraging a family meal experience can help children develop healthier relationships with food.
Once again the holidays have come and gone, and we’re back to the grind. The humdrum can get the best of us as we fall into routine, especially when it comes to food—eating on the go, or parked in front of the computer (guilty!). But now, there’s even more evidence about the benefits of participating in a family meal, especially for children.
Of course, if you live in France or Italy, you already know this. In those places around the world where the family meal is as much about the time together as it is good food, children in particular have healthier relationships with food. There’s no bag of Cheerios scattered across the dinner table. Kids eat real food. And, yes, they enjoy it.
Now, we’ve got research to back up what the Italian and French have known for ages, reports International Business Times. According to a paper published in the recent issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition, children who are more engaged in their meals are less likely to become candidates for childhood obesity.
Kids who are forced to put foods on their plates—or allowed to opt-out of participating in the family meal for less healthy options—can have a harder time accepting new foods and healthy eating habits.
Family-style meals give kids a chance to learn about things like portion size and food preferences
Said study author and University of Illinois researcher Brent McBride in a statement.
When foods are pre-plated, children never develop the ability to read their body’s hunger cues. They don’t learn to say, okay, this is an appropriate portion size for me.
And the family meal approach isn’t limited to the home, either. Schools and day care centers could help improve the health of children by employing the same methods.
Instead of asking ‘Are you done?’ teachers should ask children, ‘Are you full?’ Or they should say, ‘If you’re hungry, you can have some more
co-author Dipti Dev said in a statement.
Asking the right questions can help children listen to their hunger and satiety signals.
Meal image via Shutterstock